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Stay Pain Free While Raking This Fall

While the autumn leaves are beautiful to look at, they can be a literal pain to clear out of the yard.  Fall cleaning can leave many of us feeling sore and achy, or maybe even worse, so here are some safety tips to follow when raking up those lovely leaves.

First, it is important to choose a proper rake.  Be sure the rake is comfortable for your height with a good grip.  Also, the weight of the rake is important.  It should not be too heavy, but if it is too light and flimsy you may find yourself working extra hard to gather the leaves.  Be sure to pick a rake that is heavy enough to do the job, without being too heavy to comfortably work with.

Dress properly for heavy work.  Wear non-slip soles on your shoes to avoid slipping on the leaves. While you want to protect yourself from the chill in the air, be sure to wear clothes that are comfortable and easy to move in and have breathable fabrics to avoid trapping sweat.  Lastly, wear gloves with grips to protect your hands from blisters and improve your hold on the rake handle.

Warm up before you rake.  While it may not seem like exercise to you, raking leaves is exercise!  We can burn up to 300 calories per hour doing this chore! So, get your muscles warmed up and loose.  Walk around first to get blood flowing and stretch.  Most importantly stretch your shoulders, neck, back, arms, legs and hamstrings since those parts will be working very hard. 

Use good posture.  When raking, stand upright and rake leaves to the side of you.  Be sure to alternate your hands to avoid overuse on your dominant one.  Do not twist your back when raking or tossing the leaves away.  ALWAYS bend at the knees not the waist when raking and picking up piles of leaves.  Avoid lifting piles that have gotten too heavy, get someone to assist you or take multiple trips to dispose of them.  Do not strain yourself by lifting too much weight, clear manageable loads.  Be aware that while leaves are light individually, piles of leaves can get heavy quickly especially if they are wet or damp. 

Finally, be sure to give yourself breaks.  It is very important to stay hydrated by taking frequent water breaks.  Stretch intermittently to avoid cramping and shake out your hands to give them better circulation.  ALWAYS be sure to stop working if you have sharp sudden pains or incessant discomfort.  Listen to your body and do not push yourself beyond a comfortable limit.

If you find that you have discomfort that is persistent afterward, be sure to reach out to our Primary Care Sports Medicine provider Dr. Calan Sowa at 860-832-4666.